Cooperation agreements and MoUs under the Belt and Road Initiative

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is often subject of controversial debates. Something that frequently heats up the minds and ignites political debates are governmental-level bilateral signed BRI-MoUs (Memorandum of Understanding), which not only promise cooperation within the framework of BRI, but also substantiate the legitimacy of the initiative. This was seen last year, when the Australian state of Victoria decided to sign a MoU with China on the BRI. While some stated that signing this MoU is no big deal as the furor over Victoria’s MoU with China overlooks that – in Beijing’s eyes – the BRI is already at work in Australia, neither federal Labor nor the federal government were amused about Victoria’s solo run.


How many Belt and Road MoUs are already signed?

There is no official list or comprehensive compilation on which countries or organizations already have signed BRI-MoUs with China. But when reading Chinese state media during the last year, chances were high to at least once a week find a picture of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, signing a MoU on BRI. According to state-run Xinhua, so far, China has signed 123 cooperation documents on the Belt and Road development with 105 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the South Pacific region, and 26 such documents with 29 international organizations.

Structure of Belt and Road MoUs

Even if there are differences in the detailed designs of the MoUs, the basic structure of the agreements is similar. After agreeing on enhancing (policy) coordination and deepening mutually beneficial cooperation, both signing parties reach an “understanding” of cooperating on the five cooperation priorities of BRI 1. Policy coordination, 2. Facilities connectivity, 3. Unimpeded trade, 4. Financial integration, 5. People-to-people bonds. The five priorities are “guided by the principles of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits”. Genereally speaking, cooperation can cover a wide range of fields such as joint transportation infrastructure development, joint set-up of industrial parks, establishment of sister-city networks, trade and investment promotion, financial cooperation (such as strategic cooperation with the Asia Infrastructure and Investment Bank, AIIB) or the joint collaboration in regional initiatives.

Are Belt and Road MoUs legally binding?

At the end of the documents (see e.g. BRI-MoU China-Victoria or BRI-MoU China-Latvia), both parties agree that the document is not legally binding. But even if not legally binding, according to Chris Devonshire-Ellis, “certain elements within the MoU could be interpreted by either party, and especially the Chinese. Such interpretations can, in fact, influence the way in which China views statements made within the MoU, and regard these as important in future diplomatic talks. In short, the purpose of these non-legally binding MoU is to influence, rather than direct.”

“The MoU appear largely benign; however, it does contain the seeds of what could, in future, be used as diplomatic tools in terms of insisting that agreements have been reached over certain areas.” (Chris Devonshire-Ellis)

Countries and organizations, which officially pledged support to the Belt and Road Initiative (by MoUs or Joint Statements/Communiques)

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*this list is not complete and is being updated continuously

Country Type Year
Afghanistan Joint Statement 2018
African Union MoU 2018
Albania MoU 2017
Algeria MoU 2018
Antigua and Barbuda MoU 2018
Arab Chambers of Commerce MoU 2017
Aserbaijan MoU 2015
Bahrain MoU 2018
Bahrain MoUMoU 2018
Barbados Memorandum of Understanding to jointly advance the construction of the Belt and Road 2019
Bolivia MoU 2018
Bosnia and Herzegovina MoU 2017
Bulgaria MoU 2015
Cameroon MoU 2018
Chile MoU 2018
Costa Rica MoU 2018
Cote d’Ivoire MoU 2018
Croatia MoU 2017
Czech Republic MoU 2015
Ecuador Cooperative Document 2018
Egypt MoU 2016
Ethopia MoU 2018
European Union Joint Statement
Fiji MoU 2018
Finland Joint Declaration 2017
France Joint Declaration 2018
France Joint Declaration 2018
Ghana MoU 2018
Greece MoU 2018
Grenada MoU 2018
Guyana MoU 2018
Hungary MoU 2015
Indonesia Joint Statement 2015
Israel MoU 2017
Italy Memorandum of Understanding to jointly advance the construction of the Belt and Road 2019
Jamaica MoU 2019
Kazakhstan Joint Declaration 2015
Kenya MoU 2018
Latvia MoU 2016
Lebanon MoU 2017
Libya MoU 2018
Madagascar MoU 2017
Maledives Joint Communique 2017
Malta MoU 2018
Montenegro MoU 2017
Morocco MoU 2017
Myanmar Joint Communique 2016
New Zealand MoA 2017
Nigeria MoU 2018
Niue MoU 2018
Oman MoU 2018
Pakistan Joint Statement 2018
Panama MoU 2017
Papua New Guinea Joint Communique 2016
Philippines Joint Statement 2017
Poland MoU 2015
Portugal MoU 2018
Romania MoU 2015
Rwanda MoU 2018
Samoa MoU 2018
Senegal MoU 2018
Serbia MoU 2015
Seychelles MoU 2018
Sierra Leone MoU 2018
Singapore MoU 2018
Slovakia MoU 2015
Somalia MoU 2018
South Africa MoU 2015
Thailand Joint Communique 2014
Timor-Leste Joint Statement 2014
Tonga Joint Communique, MoU 2018
Trinidad and Tobago MoU 2018
Tunesia MoU 2018
Turkey MoU 2015
UNDP MoU 2016
UNECE MoU 2017
United Arab Emirates Framework Agreement 2017
Vanuatu MoU 2018
Victoria, Australia MoU 2018
Italy 2019
Luxemburg 2019

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